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Blog: ANTIFREEZE IN YOUR WINE?! | Why now is the time to re-visit Austrian Wine and get excited.

By Sam Johnson

Sam brings you a story natural beauty, music, scandal and revival… he also tells you why you should start getting excited by Austrian Wine and its groundbreaking new makers, keen to show off what the country has to offer.

 When you think of Austria, you think of snow capped Alps and glüwein on the piste; a land of quaint alpine lodges, where insubordinate nuns sing in the rolling meadows of the hilltops, while the faint sound of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute Overture’ can be heard drifting up from the quiet town below. Thinking of their wine, you may even think of cheap, thin and acidic, mass-produced antifreeze…

But gone are those days! Now is the time to reconsider your view on the export of this once overlooked wine producing region, in a big way!

The State of Austrian Wine Today

2003 gave us the new DAC system (Austria’s equivalent of the Italian DOC) and through greater levels of control in Austrian winemaking, Austrian wine has not only recovered from its horror period in the 1980s, but also gone from strength to strength.

Now producing on average way over 250million bottles a year, the majority of Austria’s wine production is focused on three lesser-known varieties and well as more familiar names such as Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay:

  • Grüner Veltliner

Often likened to Sauvignon Blanc, it makes crisp, dry and fresh white wines that are un-oaked. Its delicate citrus flavours intertwine with peach and a waft of dry, spicy, white pepper that works brilliantly with simple grilled fish dishes.

  • Zweigelt

The most planted red variety in Austria, Zweigelt is a lighter style of red wine that more often than not is un-oaked. Sometimes lacking a little depth initially, Zweigelt opens up to develop concentrated notes of raspberry and black cherry.

  • Blaufränkisch

If you’re looking for something a little heavier then Blaufränkisch is the way to go. Age-worthy, with big tannins, its wines retain a lovely acidity and freshness with notes of blackberry, cassis and sour cherry.

So whatever it is that you’re looking for, why not to reach for an Austrian Wine next time you come to pick something up? There really is something for everybody!

Who’s Behind It?

A big part of the rebirth of Austrian Wine is down to a new generation of winemakers in the country who are embracing new ideas and techniques, and striving to produce better wines at every turn. One example would be Arnold Holzer at Eschenhoff Holzer, who after taking over the winery at just 22 years of age, has gone on to produce some stunning examples of both Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt that are not only low in sulphur, but also embrace modern packaging and label design reminiscent of the hyper trendy Craft Beer scene.

Another producer that we are really proud to work with is Weingut R&A Pfaffl. Pfaffl are a really top end Austrian producer who make the lovable and affordable ‘Dot’ series, all the way up to the stunning Passion Reserve Riesling (a personal favourite of mine), which although at a premium price, is just simply a delightful glass of wine!

The Pfaffl family are at the forefront of vineyard and cellar management techniques in Austria and are a worthy overseas flag-bearer for their nation. So we were super excited to send Will, our Assistant Manager, out to Austria to take a look around the winery and taste through their range to make sure that we are stocking the best of what’s out there! Take a look at some of his photos below. (I know… It’s a hard job that he’s got, our Will!)


In the 1980’s it would have been impossible to think that such quality could come from the ashes of one of the great wine scandals of the 20th century, but yet here we find ourselves. Austria’s new generation of winemakers are tearing up the European wine scene, refusing to be ignored, and they have the grape-based goods to back it up. That alone is a reason for you to stop passing them over, give them a whirl, and get excited!

Next week: “Glassware: is it really worth it?”

For any information regarding the blog or social media, please contact sam@thewhalleywineshop.com



Blog: IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT THIS | The Whalley Wine Shop

By Sam Johnson

This week Sam takes a look at Sulphites in wine, what they are, and why you should care.

The year is 2005. It’s a month before Christmas, a time of year that is so perfectly suited to nights in with a bottle of Red that it’s hard to imagine the season without it. But this year is different, something has appeared on the bottle that hasn’t been there before; two words that make the whole idea of putting your feet up with an overfull glass of liquid heaven seem more dangerous, something worthy of concern.

The offending words?

“Contains Sulphites”.

As of November 2005, it has been a legal requirement within the EU for producers to label bottles with a Sulphur Dioxide/Sulphite warning if the wine contains any more than 10mg/l. Ever since, there has been a lot of talk and a lot misunderstanding about sulphites in wine: What actually are they? Are they harmful? Why do winemakers use them? Do they cause hangovers? Should I be drinking sulphite free wine?

The Facts

So, without trying to get overly scientific, let’s start off by clearing up the facts of the matter:

  • Sulphites is the term used for Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  • SO2 is a preservative used in winemaking due to its antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
  • SO2 is also a natural by-product of the fermentation process.
  • SO2 is widely used in many other food industries, not just winemaking.

In other words, sulphites do occur naturally in wines as a result of the fermentation process (yes, even in organic wines), but the majority of winemakers choose to add additional SO2 to help keep undesirable yeasts and bacteria at bay, as well as helping to protect the wine from oxidation, retaining it’s fruit integrity and preventing ‘browning’.

The Rumours

So if they’re so helpful why all the fuss? Well, it is true that Sulphur Dioxide can cause severe allergic reactions in some people. However, it is estimated that only around 1% of the population are affected by this sulphite intolerance.

It’s reasonably safe to assume that you would already be aware of this by know! Let me give you an example: the vast majority of modern wines that “contain sulphites” typically contain around 20-200PPM (Parts per Million). That’s an awful lot lower than is found in dried fruit (500-3,000PPM) or French Fries (1500-1900PPM)! So if you can eat a handful of raisins without any problems, or binge on take-away chips without so much as the feeling of regret afterwards, then you should be more than ok with wine.

Oh and no, they don’t cause your hangovers. There is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that sulphites are the cause of your headaches after a heavy night on the wine. The most probable explanation is the volume of alcohol you consumed and dehydration caused by a lack of water intake during the night!

Where To Go From Here

So after establishing what sulphites do and what they don’t, where do you go from here?

Well really it’s a very personal choice. Sulphites have different effects on different people, and we all have our reasons for choosing to avoid or ignore them, what’s most important is the enjoyment gained from any glass of wine.

While wines may look scary with “CONTAINS SULPHITES” emblazoned on the side, it’s really just the choice of the winemaker to go about his craft in the most predictable and risk-free way possible with the aim of delivering as many fault-free, consumer-friendly wines as possible to your wine rack.

Low or Zero Added Sulphur wines on the other hand can be a little less predictable, but who wants predictable? Right? There can be just as much enjoyment gleaned from a glass of Low Sulphite wine as any regular bottle and it’s all a matter of personal tastes and preferences, plus it’s a huge bonus for those who find sulphites troublesome in one way or another!

And so, despite the wishy-washy “everyone’s a winner” conclusion, I hope that I’ve been able to shed some light on Sulphites and why you can choose to care about them or not! Good wine is good wine, sulphites or no sulphites, and that should never be forgotten. The world of wine can sometimes be daunting and over-technical but, my God, it tastes good! Doesn’t it?

Next Week: Reasons Why You Should Be Excited By Austrian Wines

For any information regarding the blog, please contact sam@thewhalleywineshop.com